AXE Creek Cricket Club officials have hit out at senseless hoons, who tore up the oval at Longlea, causing thousands of dollars in damage and the cancellation of a pair of multicultural events on the weekend.
The club was forced to cancel a planned female come and try day for the Indian community on Saturday and Sunday's round five match in the Multicultural Winter T20 Cricket Tournament, after the oval was sabotaged overnight Friday.
It was the latest in a series of blows dealt the Emu Valley Cricket Association Club, which has been celebrated at national and state levels for its commitment to inclusion and diversity through its award-winning all-abilities and multicultural programs.
Axe Creek all-abilities cricket co-ordinator Rob Fisher said the destruction of the oval had 'torn the heart out' of the club's volunteers and officials and members and left the club's president, in particular, James O'Bryen - a Longlea local - gutted.
O'Bryen, who lives just a few hundred metres from the oval and is also president of the Longlea Recreation Reserve Committee, was the first on the scene on Saturday morning to witness the carnage and was understandably shellshocked.
"James is pretty much 'the soul' of the place and rocked up Saturday to prepare the ground for the Indian women's come and try day and walked head-first into the damage," Fisher said.
"We have a multicultural T20 competition we play on Sundays and that led us to running around all weekend trying to find an alternative venue for that match, which did go ahead at Weeroona Oval.
"It's pretty ordinary. Someone has obviously decided to spend five or 10 minutes doing donuts and ripping up the ground, and on the pitch too.
"It's obviously going to take some extensive work to clean it up with the chunks that have been taken out of the turf - it's pretty deep ruts.
"It may mean the end of the winter competition, which would be a real shame."
Fisher described it as 'another huge blow' after the Longlea oval came under heavy EVCA scrutiny last season for a lack of irrigation.
"This winter comp gives us a chance to get back on the ground, and with this recent rain it's the best the ground has looked for sometime," he said.
"We were all excited about playing on the ground again, I've never seen it so green, and then you see this, it rips the heart out of the club.
"All the volunteers and the hours they spend pouring the effort in to keep the ground green, and then some hoon decides to leave a trail of destruction and we are left to pick up the pieces."
Fisher, who has been involved at Axe Creek for eight seasons, said he recalled a similar vandalism attack on the ground in his early years, but not to the extent of the weekend's invasion.
The Cowboys' club rooms were also also the target of vandals and thieves following its presentation night four years ago, with the club given government funding for security measures.
"It's frustrating, especially for such a community-minded club, with our all-abilities program and the links to the Indian community," he said.
"We are probably the only club who runs a winter comp and this is what you get.
"We are not a rich club by any stretch of the imagination, things like just compound the hard work we already do."
The Multicultural Winter Cricket Tournament is in its second season and involves three clubs - Bendigo Strikers representing members of the southern Indian community and the World XI, which represents players from the north, and an Axe Creek team.
Fisher added consideration would need to be given to erecting fencing around the full-length of Longlea oval to prevent future attacks.
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